14 Signs Your Car Is About to Die

Maybe you love your old car—or the fact that it's paid off. Either way, there comes a point when it’s making a weird noise and you have to decide if you should continue to fix it or if it is time to ditch it. Here are some tips to help make that decision.

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Man's foot on car pedal
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Jerky starting and stopping

“Transmission issues are expensive. So, if you notice violent acceleration or braking while driving your car (and especially if all that jerking and shuddering is accompanied by some unpleasant grinding noises), it’s likely time to move on to a new vehicle.” —Matt Smith, senior editor at CarGurus.com

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Rusty car
Photo: PPstock/Shutterstock

Your car has rust

“Rust is a very expensive problem to fix and it continues to get worse if you don’t catch it when it starts. The chemicals they put on the roads during the winter really eat away at the paint and metal. Once rust starts, it spreads quickly. Water leaks also tend to do widespread damage in that water sits in hidden spots and causes corrosion. Both problems need to be looked at thoroughly to gauge how much damage has happened.” —Tom O’Neill, owner of O’Neill’s Auto Body Shop in New Holland, Pennsylvania

Want to prevent rust from setting in? Learn how to fix chipped car paint in four easy steps.

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Car keys being handed to person
Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

You’re holding on for love

“Lots of people, professing to love the inanimate object that is their car, continue to make payments or repairs they can’t afford. Sometimes you just have to cut the cord and sell it.” —Lauren Fix, The Car Coach

Here’s what your car says about your personality.

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Car leaking fluids
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It’s leaking fluids

“Much like the human body, your car requires precious fluids to stay alive. If you are having to refill any of your car’s vital fluids—coolant, oil, brake, and power steering fluid, etc.—every month, then it is only a question of when, not if, something will go out.” —David Ambrogio, a consultant at Superior Honda in New Orleans, Louisiana

Try this simple hack and you’ll never miss another oil change.

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Car keys on kitchen table
Photo: Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock

There’s a change in your financial picture

“If you purchased a truck when gas prices were low, but now they are straining your finances, you have to consider if this is a long-term option for you. Another example may be a sports car that has great payments, but the insurance is putting it out of your reach.” —Valerie Coleman, a longtime car expert at AutoTrader.com and now the mobile marketplace 5miles

Here’s how to find the cheapest gas station near you.

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Brand new vehicles at dealership
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The cost of the repair could get you a newer ride

“I would advise that before spending the big bucks on a big repair, ask yourself, ‘What can I sell the car for while it’s running, and can I combine the sales proceeds with the money I would otherwise have spent on repairs to buy something newer and more reliable?’ I owned a high-end European car with over 200,000 miles on it. It ran great, but needed parts replaced. The estimate for all the named work was close to $4,000. The car had a book value of around $2,500. As the cliché goes, I was about to throw good money after bad. Sure, I might have gotten another 50,000 miles out of it, or it could have died 5,000 miles later. Another option would be to take the $4,000 I was about the spend, give my car away for $2,000, and buy a nicer, newer, used car for $6,000—which is what I did.” —Richard Reina, automotive expert and product training director for CARiD.com

Here are four things you should always do before buying a used car.

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Underneath car
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Repeated recalls

“No mechanical item is without issue, which includes your vehicle. Always make sure you keep up with your recalls, but if it becomes a pattern or happens to be a major recall, it may be time to investigate getting a new car.” —Valerie Coleman

Discover 13 car dealer tricks you’ll wish you’d known sooner.

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Car dashboard lights
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Lots of little blinking lights

“The earliest sign of a car on its way out will often be found on the dashboard. All of those little warning lights are important, and ignoring them could spell more trouble down the road. If your check engine light is illuminated, you should take the car to your mechanic as soon as possible. If the oil light is on, you’ll want to pull over and call for help. And if either light persists, it may be time to find a new car.” —Matt Smith

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Mechanic checking engine
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Your mileage and warranty don’t line up

“If you are like many people, a warranty is required for peace of mind. While there are companies that offer extended warranties, make sure you read the fine print. And watch your odometer. If you are near your warranty expiration and you are not in a position to buy an extended warranty, it may be a good time to look around.” —Valerie Coleman

Find out how much dealers really make on the sale of a new car.

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Photo: Meredith Heil/Shutterstock

You’ve hit the century mark

“When you hit that 100,000-mile marker, take stock of what you have, especially if you bought the car used. Sometimes a car will run for 175,000 miles, so it’s worth the investment. But if you buy a used car with a body that’s starting to rust out, you can bet the complex components were neglected too.” —Lauren Fix

Here’s the truth about new car incentives.

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Car exhaust blowing smoke
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It’s blowing smoke

“Blue smoke pouring from the tailpipe means your car is burning oil, and white smoke means it’s evaporating coolant. You can certainly keep adding either fluid to your engine to keep the wheels turning, but failing to do either will result in that smoke starting to billow under the hood—and then it’s time for either an expensive fix or a new car.” —Matt Smith

Here’s how to calculate the real cost of buying a new car.

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Pouring oil into engine
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It’s knocking on Heaven’s door

“Keeping your car regularly lubricated with vital fluids goes a long way in maintaining your engine. Skipping regular maintenance can eventually cause your car’s camshaft to be no longer in sync with the pistons, leading to a ‘knocking’ sound that is a tell-tale sign that something is seriously wrong. This is an expensive fix, and it is usually time at this point to start saving up for a new engine.” —David Ambrogio

Find out what these strange car noises could mean.

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Car transmission
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The transmission is slipping

“A slow response from your car’s transmission is another sign that your vehicle is about to die. Once the transmission starts losing gears, it’s ok to drive the car for a few more miles, but you will just be delaying the inevitable. At this point, the solution is to replace the transmission or get a new car.” —David Ambrogio

Discover the trick that will get you a better price on your trade-in.

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Red car buried in snow
Photo: R Scapinello/Shutterstock

It’s snowing in your convertible

“Not everyone can afford to have seasonal cars. If you recently moved up north, or made a mid-life decision and find yourself driving a sports car in six inches of snow, it might be time to consider a car that better suits the weather and your lifestyle.” —Lauren Fix

Next, find out the best time to buy a new car.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest